Oregon Smothers Visiting Tennessee Tech, 63-14
De’Anthony Thomas’s day started on a sour note. After muffing a punt on what would have been Oregon’s first possession, Tennessee Tech capitalized on a 23-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Da’Rick Rogers.
And then, Thomas showed why he’s become an early favorite for the Heisman Award.
The sophomore athlete enjoyed a first half that included a 59-yard touchdown run, a 49-yard reception that he fumbled at the goal line, only to be recovered by sophomore lineman Jake Fisher for a score, punt returns of 46 and 48 yards, and a 16-yard touchdown catch in the waning moments of the first half. Thomas’s effort, along with a tenacious display by Oregon’s front seven led the Ducks to a 63-14 win over the Golden Eagles in front of 57,091 at Autzen Stadium Saturday.
“I was just trying to get some of my players out of the way, try to signal fair catch, and I got bumped,” said Thomas. “It’s all good though, you have to bounce back from it.” That he did, finishing with 220 all-purpose yards on just 10 touches.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota also starred for the Ducks, as head coach Chip Kelly dialed up a pass-heavy attack early. The true freshman completed 21 out of 28 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns and an interception, spreading the wealth between twelve different receivers before exiting the game early in the third quarter.
“It really tells me where he (Mariota) is in decision making. He’s not going to force it just to once guy,” said Kelly. “A lot of times they take away different options for him so he’s got to go through his progressions and I think you saw him do that today.”
On defense, the Oregon defense terrorized starting quarterback Tre Lamb and the rest of the Golden Eagles’ offense, amassing five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Senior Defensive end Dion Jordan was particularly disruptive, collecting five tackles including a sack and two tackles for loss.
“We just knew, as a defense, if we attack and do what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to make plays,” said Jordan.
Following Tennessee Tech’s opening score, the Ducks responded with a five play, 63-yard drive capped by a Kenjon Barner 1-yard touchdown run. The score was Barner’s 33rd as a Duck, tying him with Jonathan Stewart for fourth most in Oregon history. A fifth-year senior, Barner finished with 57 yards rushing on 13 carries.
After Thomas’s pair of long scampers brought the score to 21-7 by the end of the first quarter, the Ducks were stopped on a fourth down attempt at their own 25-yard line when Mariota was sacked for a loss of five yards. A pair of negative-yardage plays and a Kiko Alonso interception and return for 41 yards later, Oregon’s offense was back in business.
Mariota and company conquered the short field with a four play, 24-yard drive completed by a 4-yard touchdown toss to Colt Lyerla. A sophomore who has seven career touchdowns out of 13 career receptions, Lyerla did not play on offense in the first quarter despite being widely regarded as one of the Ducks’ most dangerous offensive weapons.
With 1:57 remaining in the first half, Mariota orchestrated a 95-yard drive culminating in Thomas’s final touchdown of the game to bring the halftime score to 35-7. Mariota ended his day with a 3-yard touchdown completion to Keanon Lowe on the Ducks’ first second half drive. Despite looking far superior to Tennessee Tech athletically, the Ducks were their own worst enemy for much of the game, committing 12 penalties for 105 yards, including numerous late hits.
“Some of them you could say it’s a penalty of aggression, but when a guy’s five yards out of bounds, there’s big white lines on the field – it’s just understanding how to play the game. We call them self-inflicted wounds,” said Kelly. “You’re not going to survive with twelve penalties against anybody that’s coming up on our schedule.”
After sophomore cornerback Dior Mathis intercepted Golden Eagle backup quarterback Darian Stone’s pass and returned the ball to the Tennessee Tech 4-yard line, backup quarterback Bryan Bennett entered the game and rushed in for a touchdown on his first snap.
Bennett’s outing took a turn for the worse when senior defensive back Taylor Hennigan picked him off. The Golden Eagles capitalized on the mistake with a seven play, 72-yard touchdown drive capped by a 6-yard pass from Stone to junior Doug Page.
The sophomore quarterback recovered and led the Ducks on a pair of scoring drives with the help of Byron Marshall. Bennett vaulted over the goal line for a 6-yard score late in the third quarter, and Marshall trotted in for a 4-yard score of his own in the fourth. Marshall, a true freshman from San Jose, California, carried the ball 13 times for 126 yards.
Oregon continues its 2012 campaign with a home game against Arizona next Saturday at 7:30 PM, representing the start of Pac-12 play.
|Tenn Tech||T. Lamb||8/13||46||3.5||1||1|
|Tenn Tech||S. Bush||14||63||4.5||0||18|
|Tenn Tech||D. Rogers||3||38||12.7||1||23|
|Tenn Tech||T. Goff||5||9||N/A||N/A||N/A|